Friday, February 28, 2014

Building Big Thunder Saloon: Part II

Click here for part I of this series.

Testing out the flickering LED "lanterns" on my Big Thunder Saloon. 

In this installment I'll show how the foundation and front porch were built, detail my techniques for creating realistic log walls, and share a couple tricks for making painted windows and hanging lanterns. Here we go!

A Strong Foundation

With the facade nearly complete it was time to move on to the foundation. Just like on the depot project, I'm using 1/4" mdf. It makes a nice, sturdy base and can be carved to represent wood, stone or whatever. The saloon is built into a hillside so I cut a piece a little larger than the actual structure so that part of it can also serve as the base for some rocky scenery on the right side. The left edge I carved with a Dremel and hobby knife to resemble a cut stone foundation. The whole in the center is for wiring that will be hidden below the floor. 

I painted the foundation with acrylics using the same techniques and colors I use for rock-work on the layout ( it stands to reason that the foundation would be local sandstone). After that, I started on the front boardwalk and steps. I cut simple risers out of illustration board and then clad the whole thing in strip-wood and coffee stir sticks stained with Minwax Early American and Dark Walnut. 

The completed front porch and faux stone foundation.

I built up the rocky hillside with layers of 1/4" thick Foamcore.

When happy with the shape of things, I slathered the Foamcore with Patch & Paint spackle, sculpting some simple rock forms here and there as I went. This is almost exactly how I build terrain on the layout, just in miniature.

Once dry,  the spackle was painted with artist's acrylics, primarily Burnt Umber, Raw Sienna and Unbleached Titanium. A dusting with rust and brown chalks tones down the colors and helps to blend everything together. The empty brown square will be the location of a side porch.

A Technique for Making Log Walls

The side and back walls of Big Thunder Saloon are rough-hewn logs. I chose to simulate this using 1/4" round hardwood dowels and a fairly simple painting and texturing technique. Since the dowels are a uniform width, it takes the guess work out of building. Each log represents 12 scale inches of height, making it relatively easy to figure out how many are needed.

The first thing to figure out is what kind of logs are being represented. Even though the TMMC exists in the desert, the higher elevations would be forested with Ponderosa pine. It makes sense that anyone building a log structure would use those. 

I used Liquitex Modeling Paste to simulate the craggy bark of Ponderosa Pines. Acrylic modeling paste is basically very thick matte medium and is available from most art suppliers and craft stores. 

The modeling paste was applied to each log with a soft brush, brushing lengthwise with the dowel to simulate layers of bark. The modeling paste can be diluted a bit with matte medium, but it works best to keep the mixture thick to simulate rough bark.

Once the modeling paste was dry, I notched one end to receive another log by cutting halfway down with a razor saw and carving the middle out with a hobby knife. 

Then each log is painted with very dark brown acrylics,  Raw Umber in this case.

Once the brown dries, successively lighter colors are dry-brushed over the high spots, leaving the cracks and crevices dark. I used Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna and Unbleached Titanium (a tannish white). 

Finally, the "cut" areas of the log are touched up with Unbleached Titanium and Raw Sienna, a good match for raw wood.  The completed structure will require 27 logs like this.

Each layer or course of logs is a custom fit. However I did create a simple jig to ensure the notches would line up and be a uniform depth from log to to log. The strip of masking tape on the razor saw shows how deep to notch each log.

Log structures of this kind had mud, adobe or plaster chinking between the logs to insulate and fill gaps and the prototype displays this feature. I thinned down some modeling paste with matte medium and added a couple drops of Raw Umber to create the chinking material for my structure. When dry it also creates a very strong bond.

I loaded a syringe with the paste mixture and applied it like a bead of caulk to the top of each each course of logs.

The next layer is then pressed into place causing the paste to ooze out a little on each side, simulating the chinking.

Here are the first four courses of logs in place. The white card-stock structure is a hidden back-room holding the speaker, wiring and electronics for the sound and lighting effects. More on that in the next update.

Lanterns and Painted Windows

Disneyland's Big Thunder Saloon has a pair of flickering lanterns flanking either side of the doorway and fancy signs painted on the glass windows. I wanted to recreate both of these details on my model.

I used Avery #18660 Clear Address Labels for the painted windows, creating and then reversing the lettering in Adobe Photoshop. The labels were printed out on a Brother inkjet printer.

After printing, the labels were affixed to the back of clear acrylic glassing which was then cut to the proper size to fit the Grandt Line window castings. Reversing the signs allows them to be viewed through the shiny side of the "glass."

And here they are cemented into place behind the window castings. The butterfly saloon doors were built up with layers of printed textures from a photo of actual saloon doors.

For the lanterns I chose a pair of 2.5mm yellow flickering LEDs like the ones used in battery powered candles. The bulbs were sanded flat on the ends and the diodes bent back at a 90º angle. Everything except the top lip of each bulb and the lower portion of each diode was covered with masking tape. They were then sprayed flat black.

After painting, the masking was removed and the round nub from a Lego was ACC'd to the flattened bulb end. This gave me my lanterns.

Small holes were drilled through the facade to accept the diodes and they were pressed into place. I'll show how the lights were wired and spend some time on the rest of the electronics in the next update.

Well, that should about do it for this update. Thanks for following along!

And speaking of following along, I see we've picked up several new members recently and y'all couldn't be more welcome! Just a reminder, if you enjoy step-by-step articles like the post above you might want to go check out the Railroad Line Forums if you're not already a member. I maintain an active thread on Thunder Mesa in the On30 forum where you can see more daily progress. It is also home to some of the finest modelers in the hobby and I learn something new from them just about every time I log on. Great folks and well worth a visit.

Adios for now!

Click here for part III of this series.

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